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The African-American Civil Rights Movement was a group of social movements in the United States. Their goal was to gain equal rights for African-American people.

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The Limits and Dangers of Civil Disobedience: The Case …

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Behind Selma and the Freedom March, behind all the epochal struggles of our time, lies the search for self-definition. Within a brief span of history, man and society and the whole human environment have undergone metamorphosis. Amidst revolutionary change, with the universe emerging in new form before man’s startled gaze, with accustomed landmarks swept away, mankind stands at a loss, bereft of a sense of clear identity. Powers such as man never before has known are now at his disposal. But how—that is, in what terms of binding moral reference—these powers are to be used, must remain a disaster-fraught riddle unless and until man’s essence and purpose be freshly perceived. Pending such fresh perception, rights, right itself, become a provisional proposition, with status in the scheme of things governed factually by relation to command of modern power positions. The striving for better status, whether national, group, or individual, finds ideological expression which, for all its fluency, fails to give form or voice to the innermost quest. It is significant that the posuk “And G-d created man in His own image” is so often drawn upon in support of the civil rights movement. The Torah word rather than the contemporary idiom bespeaks what lies deepest in human motivation today.

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But civil rights activists adamantly oppose that idea as a stalling tactic. The Constitution guarantees full citizenship to non-whites including the right to vote, the problem is enforcing those rights in the face of procedures and barriers enacted by the states. A new national voting law is needed, one that will enable the federal government to protect the voting rights of racial minorities. As a practical matter, both a law and an amendment first have to be fought through Congress and overcome a southern filibuster, but once a bill is enacted it immediately becomes law while an amendment has to be ratified by three-quarters of the states — a process that may well take years and could easily fail. And if an amendment is eventually ratified, Congress will have to enact new legislation (a bill) to implement it and that requires overcoming yet another filibuster.


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In December 1958, Rabbi Isadore Goodman of Memphis traveled up to Indianapolis to help celebrate the dedication of a new Orthodox synagogue building. In his remarks, the Southern rabbi spoke about Orthodox Jewry’s role in the raging Civil Rights Movement. His recommendation: they should not participate. Jews, Rabbi Goodman explained, “become more vulnerable when they dissipate their strength in other movements.”1 Rabbi Goodman recognized the weight of his words, especially coming from a Southern clergyman. He therefore stressed that he was not a racist and sympathized with “equalitarian movements.” Rabbi Goodman just did not believe that Orthodox Judaism was in a position to help.

African-American civil rights movement (1954–1968) - …

"Supreme Court or no Supreme Court, we are going to maintain segregated schools down in Dixie." - U. S. Senator James Eastland, Democrat from Mississippi

Southern whites resist the 1954 decision, which states that separate school facilities are inherently unequal and orders school integration. Several southern governors lead the way in preventing integration, claiming the federal government is intervening in state matters, and pledge to maintain the South's traditions and heritage. The 's (NAACP) legal team files suit to open the doors of public educational institutions to African Americans.

- Alabama: In 1956, mob rule and violence are used to keep Autherine Lucy from enrolling in the University of Alabama. A court decision backs her efforts.

- Arkansas: In 1957, a group of African American high school students, known as the , pass through angry crowds to integrate Arkansas's Central High School. They are protected by paratroopers dispatched by President Dwight Eisenhower and advised by state NAACP officials.

THEN & now >

- Louisiana: In 1960, white residents riot over four black girls entering a desegregated first-grade classroom in New Orleans.

- Mississippi: In 1962, is barred from registering at the University of Mississippi by Governor Ross Barnett. Barnett engages in negotiations with President John Kennedy, who then sends federal marshals to the campus. A mob of segregationists erupts in violence, killing two people and wounding others before the U.S. Army restores order. Ultimately, Meredith will enroll and graduate from the university.

- Virginia: The governor chooses to close schools rather than allow integration.

then & NOW >

The award-winning documentary series tells the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today.

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Rabbinic elites were not the only ones who got involved. The National Council of Young Israel and the Orthodox Union passed resolutions that sought to mobilize their Orthodox constituencies. In the wake of race riots throughout the South, OU President Moses Feuerstein worked together with the American Jewish Congress in 1958 to pressure President Dwight Eisenhower to convene a conference that would “stress upon the uncommitted peoples of this globe the freedom, the equality and tolerance prevailing in the United States of America.”5 Some years later, the OU established a special committee to enable Orthodox Jews to better partner with African-American civil rights advocates.6

How effective was the civil rights movement ..

But Rabbi Rackman was not just about rhetoric. He was deeply concerned that other Orthodox leaders understand the stakes of American civil rights. Consequently, Rabbi Rackman took full advance of his station when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education sixty years ago, on May 17, 1954. The court’s unanimous ruling declared de jure racial segregation illegal. At that time, Rabbi Rackman was chairman of the RCA’s Convention Committee and slated to become the organization’s president at the upcoming gathering. The July convention in Detroit was to take place just two months after the landmark court case and Rabbi Rackman sought to sensitize the 600 Orthodox rabbis and leaders to the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. A year earlier, the RCA had resolved to back school desegregation, but that was not enough for Rabbi Rackman. So he invited Maxwell M. Rabb, associate counsel to President Eisenhower, to keynote the forthcoming conference.